The announcement rolled slowly through Simpsonville.
“Holy cow,” said Mayor Janice Curtis, who first learned of her city’s new prominence after receiving a call from The Washington Post. “I think it’s wonderful news.”
The winning numbers were 5-28-62-65-70, with a Mega Ball number of 5, and lottery officials estimated that 75 percent of all number combinations had been purchased by the time of Tuesday night’s drawing.
Officials said no one has yet claimed the winning ticket.
The estimated cash option — should the winner (or winners) choose to take a one-time lump-sum payment instead of annual payouts over 30 years — is $878 million before taxes, according to Mega Millions officials.
The six winning numbers were printed on a ticket sold at the store near where Lee Vaughn Road runs into Scuffletown Road, about four miles from city hall. It is a rural part of a rural town outside Greenville, where the mayor said “there’s a church on every corner.”
When it comes to the KC Mart #7, that is accurate: The store is hard by Clear Spring Baptist Church. New Pilgrim Baptist Church is also nearby.
C.J. Patel, the store’s owner, said it was “good for the community” that the ticket was sold there. He hopes the winner or winners stay local with their many, many millions.
Patel will also benefit, lottery officials said: He will receive $50,000 once the ticket is claimed.
“I’ll do some good with that money,” Patel said at a news conference outside his store.
Tony Cooper, chief executive of the South Carolina Education Lottery, stood next to Patel in the sunbathed parking lot and offered some advice to the winning ticket-holder: “Take a deep breath,” he said. He also urged the winner to meet with financial and legal advisers before making any big decisions.
The winner or winners have 180 days to claim the prize, he said.
But Cooper may have needed a moment as well. When asked to express how he felt when he learned that a South Carolina store sold the only winning ticket, he said he needed to make up new words to describe the elation.
“Pandemonious jollification,” he said. (At least we think that’s how it may be spelled.)
Lottery officials had said for days that the jackpot would be worth an estimated $1.6 billion, a U.S. lottery record.
But when the jackpot was finalized, it was downgraded to $1.537 billion. So the lottery record remains $1.586 billion, for a Powerball jackpot shared by three winning tickets in January 2016.
“The final total was less than the $1.6 billion estimate because estimates are based on historical patterns of jackpot rolls, but there are few precedents for a jackpot this size,” said Seth Elkin, a spokesman for Maryland Lottery and Gaming, which heads the Mega Millions Group.
“Typically, about 70 percent of sales occur on the drawing day, so forecasting precise numbers in advance can be difficult,” he told The Post on Wednesday.
South Carolina Education Lottery spokeswoman Holli Armstrong said the drawing was the state’s first Mega Millions jackpot win. Five years earlier, a Powerball player in the state won a $399 million jackpot; the man who claimed that prize remained anonymous. (His dog was the first to learn the news, the Associated Press reported at the time.)
How the residents of Simpsonville manage the new attention could depend on whether the winner decides to be publicly identified.
South Carolina is one of just a handful of states that allows lottery jackpot winners to remain anonymous. The state lottery encourages players to sign tickets upon purchase, but that may prove problematic if anonymity is desired by the winner or winners.
“Signing the back of the lottery ticket with your real name may bind you to claiming the prize under that name, thus releasing your identity to the public even if that’s not what you want,” The Post’s Amy B Wang reported.
Lottery fever struck nationwide ahead of Tuesday’s drawing, with jackpot chasers waiting in long lines for tickets. Virginia Lottery officials said as many as 12,700 tickets were being sold per minute at the sales peak in that state.
Mega Millions officials count on enormous jackpots to draw in players who would ordinarily avoid participating. Last October, those officials made two big changes: They doubled ticket prices to $2 — and tweaked the formula to make it easier to win smaller prizes but harder to win the jackpot.
Here’s how Mega Millions used to work: Players picked five numbers from 1 to 75 and a Mega number from 1 to 15. The odds of winning the top prize were 1 in 258,890,850.
Since Mega Millions modified the formula, players now pick five numbers from 1 to 70 and a Mega number of 1 to 25. The odds of winning the jackpot are now 1 in 302,575,350.
In other words, reducing the number of balls for the first five numbers increases the chances of winning a smaller prize. But raising the number of Mega Balls makes it harder to win the jackpot. (You still win the big jackpot by matching all six winning numbers in a drawing.)
Powerball made similar changes to its rules in 2015. That game itself currently has a monster jackpot, though a small one relative to Mega Millions: Powerball stands at $620 million ahead of Wednesday’s drawing.
Mega Millions reported that Friday’s prize would be a paltry $40 million.
But at least one person out there has a much, much bigger jackpot to contend with.
And now, so does Simpsonville.
“This could be a good and bad thing,” said Curtis, the mayor. “It could put us on the map.”
Perspective: How ’80s excess fueled today’s Mega Millions mania